Nine players who helped themselves at the U20 Division A FIBA European Championship - 07/18/2023
By Artau Pascual
The FIBA U20 Division A European Championship came to an end with France grabbing the Gold medal after a thrilling Final game against Israel. Heraklion, Crete, hosted a Championship that held many surprises and gave us the chance to evaluate the talent in a different scenario. A few days after the conclusion of the event, it’s a good moment to take a close look at some players who helped themselves in the tournament.
Ilias Kamardine (2003, 6'4, SG, France)
The MVP of the tournament had a great showing on both ends of the court in the Final game, but he also was an impactful element in most of the previous games. Kamardine is a high-level athlete for European standards, and his athleticism showed up on both ends of the floor, but what stood out the most in his game was the poise and ability to stay under control in the Final against Israel: he unleashed the mid-range with a right-handed floater and also hit a few turnaround jumpers. He found the way to embrace a higher usage than the one he usually has without losing what will allow him to make money in the future: his activity in passing lanes and spot up shooting. We also saw some good secondary initiation chops that he already demonstrated in Evreux during the season and provided a key added value to his game.
Maxime Raynaud (2003, 7'1, C, France)
The Stanford product was one of the most efficient bigs in the Heraklion. Raynaud’s mobility and game comprehension on the offensive end were big-time attributes for the French NT halfcourt game: he was always in motion, setting screens and offering passing lanes both rolling or at the three-point line, from where he logged 7 hits on 8 attempts. Maxime was always incredibly effective in the low post because of how easily he turned directions, and he felt comfortable ducking in and offering easy entry pass possibilities to his teammates. Maxime Raynaud has expanded his shooting range, he’s smart enough to keep the ball swinging and find open teammates, and he also has the tools to be a smart short roll passer.
Noam Yacoov (2004, 6'1, PG, Israel)
Noam Yacoov put up a playmaking masterpiece during the whole tournament. He was the main ball-handler for the Israel NT, and he did an impressive job at getting involved all his teammates in the game. There are not many players in the 2004-born generation with Yacoov’s ability to turn directions and hit his teammates with either hand. Yacoov stood out as a live dribble passer, manipulated angles at his will and ran the game at his own pace for the most of the tournament. At this point, he already projects as a good pick and roll player for European basketball, and what will determine his ceiling will be his consistency to knock down shots off the dribble. He’s a crafty finisher who knows how to take advantage of his coordination and shiftiness to put rim pressure and avoid contact.
Daniel Wolf (2004, 6'10, PF/C, Israel)
The Yale product was the most surprising player in the tournament. Danny is a tricky player: his body doesn’t suggest what he is as a player. His intelligence and game comprehension makes it up for his lack of athleticism on both ends of the court: he’s a high-level mid-post passer who was able to build a nearly unstoppable offense with Noam Yacoov, allowing the guard to take advantage of his feet lightness to cut, and he demonstrated a high-ceiling in terms of spatial awareness and passing touch. In addition to this, and excluding from the description some sloppy turnovers that clearly belong to the pack of how he acts on the court, it was also remarkable how fluid he was putting the ball on the floor and attacking from the top of the key in pick and pop or hand off situations. Wolf still has many ways to go in terms of athleticism, and he’ll need to add tension to his game, but the feel and tools are already there, and he does a great use of them.
On the defensive end, he needs to improve his lateral quickness and functional strength, but a good example of his defensive game comprehension was the turnover he forced at the end of the game against Spain, when he was in a clear disadvantage against Juan Nuñez, but he figured out how to play with the distance he left to the Spanish PG and grabbed a key steal. We could also notice he’s a tough defensive rebounder. He was, definitely, a fun player to watch.
Sananda Fru (2003, 6'9, C, Germany)
Fru left a way better impression than in the Adidas Eurocamp, and the reason is clear: this was competitive basketball. Sananda impacted the game as a small-ball five in an athletic German NT that allowed him to switch or show and recover a lot, which is clearly his main attribute right now on this end of the floor. He can look a little rigid sometimes, but his hips' fluidity will translate well to the next level once he polishes it.
It was also good to see him not hesitating to move outside the paint either setting high screens, sliding to the top of the key or shooting, and he did a few smart reads as a short roll passer on the offensive end. Sananda’s ceiling might be more reduced than the one that more skilled bigs can have, but his game is about functional attributes and winning plays, and this is what makes him a player with a safe floor for professional basketball.
Liutauras Lelevicius (2003, SF, 6'7, Lithuania)
The Lithuanian NT didn’t achieve the expectations, but Liutauras Lelevicius made his case to position as the best scorer in the U20 European Championship. The 6’7 Wing has the ideal mix of size, athleticism, handles and scoring tools to be a high-level offensive option for European teams. He thrived in transition, was able to drive and complete powerful finishes drawing contact or getting past his defender, showed fascinating glimpses of his off the dribble shot creation and used his scoring gravity to make life easier for his teammates. He didn’t show any type of fear in the crunch minutes and demonstrated the type of leadership you can expect from a player like him. Lelevicius is ready for the next stage.
Adrià Rodríguez (2003, PG, 6'4, Spain)
Adrià Rodríguez quickly turned into one of the few positive surprises in a flawed Spanish NT. Adrià Rodríguez was the best perimeter defender in the Spanish NT: he collected deflections during the whole tournament and was the best defender Spain could put on Noam Yacoov in the game they got eliminated from the Championship race. In addition, he didn’t run out of ideas in pick&roll and adjusted his role to the needs of the lineup he had to fit in. Adrià Rodríguez projects as a solid option for a low-usage guard spot, and his status will improve even more when he establishes himself as a solid spot up alternative at a higher volume. Great competitor, solid playmaker and valuable defender with enough size to make an impact both on and off the ball.
David Mirkovic (2006, 6'9, PF/C, Montenegro)
The youngest player in the event stepped up in a big way for Montenegro during the entire tournament. The 2006-born PF/C found ways to contribute on the offensive end thanks to his shooting ability and felt comfortable putting the ball on the floor. Mirkovic, 17, still has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to vertical leap and explosiveness, but he already does a good use of his body to drive and separate from his defender at attacking closeouts and getting to the rim. In the game against Poland he also left an eye-popping sample of his coordination in a difficult layup.
Tomas Thrastarson (2005, 6'6, SF, Iceland)
The 17-year-old, 2005-born Icelandic Wing was one of the best scorers on his team in the tournament. Thrastarson is a well-sized perimeter player with OK driving ability who can create space for his own shots. While he struggled to get to the rim against set defenses, he was good enough to find ways to the rim in transition situations and in the first seconds of possession. He also put on display a fluid sidestep shot that will keep improving if he keeps working on his athleticism and strides. On the defensive end, Thrastarson had some problems adjusting to the level of physicality and athleticism of his rivals and suffered because of the lack of versatility of his team.